Rows of stone seats at an amphitheater, nestled in trees at a park.
Jazz and blues groups will perform for free at the Compassion in Action festival at the Mosswood Park Amphitheater. Credit: Florence Middleton

A one-day music festival coming to Mosswood Park is designed with a specific audience in mind: people who are unhoused in Oakland.

Where: Mosswood Park amphitheater (off Broadway, south of MacArthur Boulevard)
When: Monday, June 12, 2-6 p.m.

“Come as you are, however you are, and be served by music and entertainment just for you,” said pianist Joe Warner, who’s helping organize the Monday, June 12 event with First Presbyterian Church of Oakland.

Warner said the festival, dubbed Compassion in Action, is meant to provide homeless residents with the sort of joyful experience they’re often left out of.

“Even at free events and free festivals, they’re often not welcome,” he said.

Warner will perform with headliner The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol. Also on the lineup are MJ’s Brass Boppers, a New Orleans-style brass band, and Bernard Anderson & The Old School Band, a blues group. Free food will be provided.

The concert has been in the works for months, said Rev. Matt Prinz, the pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, which received an arts grant from the city to hold the event.

Each week, the church operates a food pantry in partnership with Temple Sinai, offering items from businesses like Whole Foods and Good Eggs, which will also donate food for the festival. Prinz said the food program used to be an opportunity for sit-down meals and social connection. During the pandemic, they switched to to-go meals, so Prinz hopes the concert will be a chance to bring people back together.

The organizers are spreading the word to programs that serve unhoused people and visiting homeless camps to let residents know about the upcoming event. Warner said that while anyone is technically welcome at the public park concert, they’re not advertising it generally because the idea is to prioritize the unhoused community. They’re aiming for a crowd as large as 250 people.

Mosswood Park was selected because of its amphitheater and proximity to the church. The park has also been the site of many public struggles between housed and unhoused residents in recent years.

“These public spaces become places where people bump into each other from different walks of life,” said Prinz. He hopes the daytime concert will, for one afternoon at least, bring “lots of positive feelings” to the site.

Warner, who sometimes plays at the church’s services, said he’s personally looking forward to performing for this audience.

“Music can be so inspirational and life-changing,” the pianist said. “Having that art coming at them, just for them, it’s a beautiful thing.” 

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.